The bank has informed recruiters that one-third of candidates for top jobs must be women.

Lloyds officials have stated that shortlists of candidates for jobs from assistant vice-president and up must be more diverse. The information was revealed in an email seen by MoneyBeat, sent by Resource Solutions, the company that Lloyds uses to outsource recruitment, writes Lucy Burton for The Wall Street Journal.

Lloyds Banking Group

Email sets out requirements for headhunters

The firm informed headhunters that “a minimum of one third of your total submissions must be made up of suitably qualified female candidates. No short list of candidates will be progressed until this objective is received without exception.”

The policy change comes into effect immediately, continues the email. Failure to provide suitable female candidates may “ultimately impact” headhunters’ relationship with Lloyds.

“The above directive is one that has been shared at a Group wide level and will now be a standard approach for F+ hiring [assistant vice-president level upwards] until further notice,” continued the email.

Last year the bank promised that women would make up 40 of its top 8,000 jobs by 2020, and 31% by the end of 2015. The Lloyds 2014 annual report revealed that 29.3% of senior managers were female, and 3 of 13 board members.

Lloyds part of growing trend in banking sector

Andrew Bester, group director and chief executive of commercial banking, said that the move indicates “an intentional focus on the issue” during an interview with MoneyBeat. He claimed that diversity as a whole was a priority for the bank.

“We want to raise our industry’s standards in gender diversity, but we will only be able to do this if we create a meritocratic organization for all colleagues,” he said in email interview.

Policies to encourage the hiring of women are legal if females are under represented in a certain role. The legality depends on whether candidates have equal qualifications, the definition of which can see firms enter a legal grey area.

Gender equality is an increasingly important issue in the City of London. Some banks have offered extra fees to recruiters if a woman is the successful candidate, according to one headhunter.

Private equity firms suffer even more pronounced gender imbalance than investment banks. Just 14% of front office jobs are filled by women, compared to 19% in investment banking. In response, some private equity firms are now running women-only recruitment processes.